8 Things I Loved about 2018 + What’s next!

Hello and Happy New Year, friends!

Before I get into what’s been going on and what’s happening next, I want to call out 8 great things that happened in my life in 2018. I hope 2018 treated you well, too.

1) In January last year, I was invited to share music along with flautist Keith McGillivray for a Words on Fire poetry reading given by Door County poet Nancy Rafal. What a lovely night with great people! Door County has a wonderful arts community and beautiful scenery even in winter.

2) I attended Song Circle with Tricia Alexander at the Café Carpe most months in 2018. The wonderful Tricia Alexander, practitioner of the performing and healing arts, holds a monthly song circle, and I attend whenever possible because it feels restorative. Everyone is welcome: the space feels sacred and special in an inclusive way. We don’t “perform” songs. We share them from the heart and we can invite others to join in on the song or not. Everyone is in the circle. Those who don’t make music may pass or request. It’s such an uplifting experience. Check out the Café Carpe calendar if you think you’d like to participate. It’s usually the last Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm, but call (920) 563-9391 and ask to be sure.

3) In February 2018, I returned to give a concert at the Rockford Listening Room in Rockford, Illinois. Sharing music in listening rooms is a dream come true for me. I smile to think of where music has taken me. Thank you Rockford folks! I hope to see you again soon.

4) Also in February last year I gave a solo concert at the Café Carpe in Fort Atkinson. This space means so much to me because it helped me get back into performing professionally after taking a break when my sons were young. I resumed performing in 2007 by sharing songs at the open stage at the Café Carpe, resharpening old skills and building up new ones. Audience members and other artists gave me a lot of encouragement that kept me going. In 2008, I secretly set a goal of one day having an actual concert at the Café Carpe–not just appearing on the open stage. In March 2010 that happened for the first time. Since then, a few times a year, I have been grateful to share music in the back room of the historic, community-centered bar-restaurant that locals lovingly call “The Carpe.” Satchel Welch always sets the sound up nicely, and I can relax and enjoy spending the evening with the folks in the room, feeling the songs bringing us together, and knowing the room will help me sound great. I will be back there again this March (exact date not yet set) — nine years after my first professional concert there. Wow! Thank you Bill Camplin and Satchel and Kitty Welch for all you do. Your work brings joy to so many people!

5) In March 2018, I gave a co-billed concert with SistaStrings at The Coffee House in Milwaukee. If you haven’t heard of SistaStrings, please search online for their videos and go see one of their shows. You will be transported by the way they blend violin, cello, and vocals across multiple genres, and their composing and songwriting is outstanding. A bonus of co-billing with them is they sat in on one of my songs and we closed the concert by performing a song together. Special thanks to Peter Mulvey for introducing me to Monique and Chauntee Ross of SistaStrings a few months prior when we shared the stage at the Lamplighter series concert. They have an album coming out this year, so watch for it!

6) In April of last year I shared music at the Rainbow Hospice Memorial Quilt Dedication service, as I have in years past. I had moving conversations with family members there to dedicate quilt squares in memory of their loved ones. This event invites me to open myself to others and draw from my experience of having been with my late husband through his hospice care back in 2013. I am thankful to connect with people who have walked a similar path. The meaningfulness of this service moves me deeply. I hope to be invited again in 2019.

7) In May I co-led a women’s retreat called “With Every Breath: Finding Joy Within Us” with a dear friend and spiritual leader. We combined readings and music and conversation and art to create a shared experience of rejuvenation. I treasure all that I learned that day and the relationships it nurtured.

8) New venues and new musical friends! Ok, so I have way more than eight things in 2018 that I am grateful for, but I want to say how thrilling it was to perform for the Night Market in Viroqua (a production of Driftless Books & Music) and at two Madison, Wis. venues new to me: Crescendo on Monroe St. and BOS Meadery. Also new this past year was setting up co-billed concerts with John Stano. It started in June with the Café Carpe, which was great fun. Then, in September, John helped me out at BOS Meadery because I had an injury that made it hard for me to play the full evening (more on that in a minute). John and I are giving a concert in Milwaukee this month on Saturday the 19th at Linneman’s and we plan to book more co-billed events this coming year. John has a couple new albums out this year, so check out his website, too!

Now for something completely different:

It’s been so long since I last posted that you may have wondered what happened to me. I want to tell you about why I went quiet for several months, but first – I have events to announce (yes!):

  • This Saturday – Jan 12 at 6:30pm, John Stano and I will be on the radio with “Sessions with Sandy” a weekly live music and interview program on WXRW 104.1 FM Riverwest Radio, Milwaukee. You can listen live online at the River West Radio website.
  • January 19 at 8pm – concert with John Stano at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn 1001 E Locust St. Milwaukee, Wis. $8
  • February 4 at 1pm (lunch at noon) – Guest artist for the program at the Harry J. and Belle Goodman Lechayim Lunchtime Plus event. Open to all. You’re invited to come enjoy food, friends, fun and a concert and talk by Kaia Fowler at Lechayim Lunchtime Plus at Beth Israel Center, 1406 Mound Street, Madison, Wis. You may attend lunch and the program or just come for the concert. Contact Jewish Social Services at (608) 442-4081 no later than 2:00 pm Wednesday Jan. 30 to reserve. (Lunch Menu: Braised balsamic chicken, couscous, market salad, truffled white bean soup, rugelach / vegetarian option: balsamic tofu). If you are 60 years or older, a minimum donation of $4.00 is suggested, but please only pay what is comfortable for you. The cost of the meal is $8.97 for those younger than 60 years old. The program is free!
  • March -date TBA – one of the first two weekends – 8:30pm at the Café Carpe 18 South Water St. West Fort Atkinson, Wis. $8

So where have I been since summer musings? This fall was rough for several reasons, but one major incident that colored the past four months for me occurred at the beginning of Sept. My dog and I were attacked by a neighbor’s dog while we were out walking. In the process of trying to get away, I fell and got a severe nerve stretch injury and a neck injury. The fall caused me significant disability and pain for months and messed with my ability to play the guitar for some time. (Special thanks to Ken for loaning me a Collings Baby guitar! Because of that loan, I was able to get back to playing within a couple weeks and was able to perform at BOS Meadery in September. I couldn’t have done it otherwise.) My dog Gibson was bit in a couple places and healed quickly, thankfully.

So, I have been occupied with healing for about four months now. Through this experience, I have gained so much understanding of what it means to live with pain and disability. My heart goes out to all who endure that as part of daily life. I wish you comfort and relief. And I wish you strength and wellness. Those are the things I wanted most. My injury feels about 90% healed most days now, and the only effect on my guitar playing is that I have to play seated to keep the weight of the guitar off my shoulder while the nerve finishes healing. This means I can get back to the stage and back to working on my album. I am celebrating!

I am all for experiencing a great 2019 full of hope, joy, healing and rejuvenation. We have much work to do for this beautiful world and for each other. I wish us all the ability to seize opportunities for playfulness and compassion. I encourage us to look for joy and welcome it into our days, even if it is as small as a chickadee perched on a bare winter branch. Happy 2019 everyone! And thank you, as always, for caring about me and my music. May all your good dreams come true!

In peace and light and song,

p.s. If you are on Facebook, please go to my page at this link and like and follow it. I am working on growing my connection with you and others through social media this year.


The Answer is Love

As this New Year kicks off, I am thankful for the joy I have shared with others recently and opportunities that lie ahead of me. Even as I connect with love and joy inside me, I recognize and bear witness to the suffering of people near and far, including my own struggles. I ask myself, “How do I choose to respond?”

This is the same question that I faced in October, 2012 when I learned that my husband and soulmate, Scott Jaeger, had stage IV pancreatic cancer. I asked myself, “Since I am powerless to change this situation to be something I want it to be, how do I choose to respond?” I chose love and peace then, and I choose that response now.

Does that mean that I never felt fear or anger as I lived through losing the love of my life? Of course not. It meant that I recognized the natural response of fear and its sibling, anger, and gently said, “I understand you think you’re going to protect me here, but, really, your response is not helpful in this situation.” I felt my fear and anger and sorrow. I expressed those feelings through crying, long walks, writing poetry, singing songs and talking with my loved ones. Then, I let them go and acted on love.

Throughout the nine months that Scott lived knowing he was dying of cancer, I did my best to follow a path of peace within and without. I practiced acceptance while advocating for the best possible experience along the way. I welcomed the now and did my best to stay present in each moment. I lived, as best I could, in connection with myself, my partner, my children, and all whom I encountered, including the abundant life found in the natural spaces where I retreated for comfort. 

Since going through such a profound loss, I have looked at life differently. How could I not? Spirituality has taken on new depth and vividness for me. It’s so real to me now. No longer a theory, it is a practice.

I nurture friendships with others who support a vision of possibility in Love. Anything is possible. What I am saying has been said so many ways by people far more eloquent than I am, but it bears repeating so that we can imprint it on our hearts. Love in response to hate brings transformation. Consistent, profound Love changes the energy and feeling around a place, a group of people, an event, even a country. And, you know what? Even if love didn’t transform, it would still be my choice as a response because of who I am, who I choose to be. 

So, yes. I feel troubled at times when I read the latest news reports and articles about the powerful and what they plan to do that could put others in harms way. As an advocate for people living in poverty, people with disabilities, people persecuted for their faith, the color of their skin, whom they love, and other common folk, I feel concern about many of the policies being put forward today. 

I could choose to resist in disgust, in outrage, in terror! I could spend time and energy strategizing the most effective way to blast back at the hate and injustice I witness. I could use my voice and my written words to spread righteous indignation, anxiety, and dismay, like a virus, to others I meet. After all, who could blame me? We live in such terrible times in many, many ways. To deny that would be folly. 

Yet, what would I be contributing to the world if I chose that response? I would be sending out into the world more fear and anger, more despair. How would that help anyone? So, instead, I take a deep breath and another and another. Then I reach inside and feel around in the dark for the warmth and glimmer of Love. And I cradle it between my palms like an ember, sheltering it from the winds of doubt. I breathe gently on it to encourage it to grow brighter and stronger. I meditate on it, integrating it into my full being, knowing its truth. I pray for the courage and strength to continue to carry this Love inside me and share it with the world through my thoughts, words, actions, and songs. I respond in Love.

Love shows itself with many faces: hope, kindness, compassion, joy, togetherness. Please join me in nurturing Love inside you and throughout our communities. When we learn to recognize Love all around us, fear and anger lose their power over us. As my friend and mentor Tricia Alexander wrote in a beautiful song treasured by many, “Love is all around us in this world. Love is all around us in this world. Love is all around us. I am absolutely sure. I can see it ’cause I know what I’m looking for.” More recently she wrote a song that I am learning. It’s called “The Answer is Love.” She writes, “Whatever the question, the answer is love.” I agree and thank her for sharing this wisdom.

May you feel love and light and warmth and peace this year. Let’s help one another respond with love. 

In compassion and truth,